Stationed in Steamboat Springs Colorado for the last 30 years has been a good thing for Moots. From the sounds of it not only does it have some of the best bicycle riding around, but the community itself has been supportive and helped the bicycle manufacturer grow.
Moots is at a tricky point in the lifespan of the company. They are a small bicycle frame manufacturing company with just enough people involved to make them seem and function more like their larger counterparts. The problem then lies with where Moots fits as a builder, even though they make something like 1,000 to 1,200 frames a year (which is still small in the bicycle manufacturing industry) they get pegged as being too large for the handmade community, and too small for the production business. However, this industry fit dilemma should not matter to the rider, the only fit that matters is the bike beneath them — and with 30 years of perfecting each step of the building process the bikes coming out of Steamboat are truly refreshing.
We sat down to a chat with Jon Cariveau; 13 year veteran of the Moots family.
Give a Little Bit about yourself and your personal riding background:
My dad was in the Air Force so I delivered the “Stars and Stripes” newspaper around the base. And aside from that spent a good amount of time working on a fixing bikes with my younger brother. Then, upon moving back to the states at the age of 16 it was no longer cool to ride bikes, so it took a bit of a back seat until 1986 when when I would do a bit of exploring on the mountain bike while earning a Horticulture Degree with Oklahoma State University. After graduating and realizing that a job in the Golf Course industry was not the way to go on a buddy’s whim I took my bike and my dog and headed to check out this town my buddy kept telling me about – Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was pretty easy, as a skilled mechanic to get work at a bicycle shop Sore Saddle Cyclery, in the summer and then work on the mountains at one of the ski resorts in the winter. I have been here now for something like 18 years. At some point I started putting together all of the bikes that Kent Eriksen was building and then before you know it, you’re a part of the company.
How many people does the Moots Factory Employ?
Currently there are 22 full time employees. There are 15 hands on the production line and then 7 on the sales/account/design team. And really, we fall in a funny spot because at roughly 100 frames a month we have a little bit more purchasing power than the smaller guys, but still no where near what larger companies can do. The conversation comes up every year during the tradeshow circuits (Moots had booths at both Interbike and NAHBS this past year) because people see that we have a booth at Interbike and automatically assume that we are something around the size of the big guys, when really that is not the case.
Everyone at the shop rides their bikes and most of us race as well. We have the Downhill Freaks, the Traditional Roadies as well as a few crazy Cyclocross Guys too. One great example of our workforce would have to be Caleb. He has literally worked his way up through the company, teaching himself how to weld titanium along the way. Another would have to be Brad, not only has he been here 13+ years, but he is also the main-man on the front lines of Product Design. And aside from that he is also a Professional Mountainbiker, which, as it turns out is actually really good product input. The support from the inside of this place is phenomenal, if there is something that you want to try, or another avenue along the way, that type of behavior is encouraged to keep people interested and motivated to come and work for Moots. The nice thing is that it keeps people (like himself) around for a long time.
What do you think of when we ask you to build a Rapha Continental Bike?
Well, the first thing that came to mind when putting together a bike for the Continental was that this really is not to much of a stretch for us. Meaning, these are the kinds of bikes that we like to build and also the style of bikes that we like to ride. It also helped that last summer we got to ride with the guys when they swung their tour though this way. The bicycles that we build are not one dimensional. We can take what feedback a customer gives us and build a tool that serves a purpose. Historically speaking we have been very centered on the “ride quality” of the bicycles, but something else that we rely heavily on is trying to make sure that the bicycles are as versatile as possible, that there is no sacrifice of one thing or another.
We have to ask this question because we have asked it to everyone before you…. What does the word ‘epic’ mean to you. Especially in terms of your relationship to the bicycle?
That is a funny concept because almost everything in Steamboat could be deemed ‘Epic.’ One day it will be the -28 degree commute. In the summer it could mean getting up super early to do our 80 mile ride and then coming in to bang out nine hours of work. It really varies that way. There some rides we do here where you really have to plan out your water supply for the day. Take a water filtration system with you because if you get stuck out there without it you will be screwed. I would say that is epic.
The thing about Steamboat is it really does have unbelievable roads, the Western Slope of the Continental Divide is here, so you could ride to Mexico if you want. 45 minute climbs, rollers, it has it all. One of my favorite bikes to take out is the Vamoots with the filetreads that you saw at the NAHBS show. It is great. A little bit wider tires, but still the race geometry of the cross bike. Doesn’t get much better than that. And in fact, I don’t know if it gets much better than Steamboat Springs now that we are talking about it.
For more info visit: moots.com